The No. 5 Action Express Racing won the 2018 Rolex 24. Can it repeat this year? (Image source: theapex.racing)
Will the mighty Cadillac's continue Thar Stranglehold upon Day-Toners' High Banks?
For last year's riveting No Fenders Rolex 24 Prototypes preview, I found 10 entrants listed for the 56th running of the 24 Hours of Daytona, which I regaled Y'all in;
As previously noted, IMSA has split the Prototypes Class into two separate entities, paving the way to ensure that the Daytona Prototype International (DPi) competitors will be the fastest category overall, Hence ensuring that the European-spec LMP2 contingent no longer will threaten for an upset Rolex 24 victory ahead of the Manufacturer based runners.
Engine: 3.5-litre V-6 Turbo
Team: Acura Team Penske
#6) Juan Pablo Montoya, Dane Cameron and Simon Pagenaud
#7) Helio Castroneves, Ricky Taylor and Alexander Rossi
Surely most IndyCar Fans, Whale' at least those tunin' in. Will have Thar Attenzione squarely focused upon El Capitano's, nee Roger Penske's latest foray into Sports Car racing, with his two car All Star lineup featuring two of Indy Cars past Biggest names, i.e.; Castroneves & Montoya.
While in typical Penske tradition, Thars' NO weak links in the Driver selections, as "Symone Pagenoe," nee Pageantry, aka simon Pagenaud remains, whilst thou Graminator', nee Graham Rahal, due to his lanky 6ft 3in frame has bowed out in favour of IndyCar HotSchue Alexander Rossi, who along with Pagenaud will contest the Endurance rounds this year.
Meanwhile, Monty and Hulio's regular season co-drivers aren't slouches, with both Ricky Taylor and Dane Cameron being past series championship winners.
Whilst in a nod to it being IMSA's 50th Anniversary season, Penske will run Throwback liveries of past Acura Sports Car runners Comptech, who featured IndyCar Blogger Geo. Phillips favourite ABC Announcer Parker Johnstone at its Helm...
Cadillac DPi VR
Engine: 5.5-litre normally aspirated V-8
Teams: Action Express Racing, JDC-Miller Motorsports, Juncos Racing and Wayne Taylor Racing
#5) João Barbosa, Filipe Albuquerque, Mike Conway and Christian Fittipaldi
#10) Jordan Taylor, Renger van der Zande, Fernando Alonso and Kamui Kobayashi
#31) Eric Curran, Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani
#50) Kyle Kiser, Rene Binder, Will Owen and Agustín Canapino
#84) Chris Miller, Stephen Simpson, Simon Trummer and Juan Piedrahita
#85) Rubens Barrichello, Tristan Vautier, Devlin DeFrancesco and Mikhail Goikhberg
Once again, the defending Rolex 24 race Winner Hails from the Caddy' stables, this time being the No. 5 "Mustang Sally;" Err sampling Action Express Racing (AXR) Cadilac VR DPi.
Yet ARSE-Sumedly, Mucho Attenzione will be focused upon the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing, but not on its normal chauffeurs Renger van der Zande and Jordan Taylor. Nope, instead that Media Darling; Uhm I meant Fernando Alonso, Ci! With the team's forth driver being another Formula 1 refugee who I fondly call 'em "K-Squared," nee Kamui Kobayashi.
Similarly, Action Express Racing's (AXR) two car squad is loaded for Bear, albeit with slightly Tweaked Driver Rosters. Most notably being the addition of new Fulltime Pilote Pipo Derani, who needed to find new employment after the demise of (ESM) Extreme Speed Motorsports.
Whilst Christian Fittipaldi makes his Swan Song as a driver and will retire from racing after this year's 24 Hours of Daytona...
As Yuhs should never count out AXR, who after all have won three consecutive Daytona Prototype (DP) class titles between 2014-16, and four of the last five years Outright!
(2018) Twice with the formable Duo of JB', aka João Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi, whom are both triple Rolex 24 winners! With Eric Curran having anchored the Seester' #31 Whelen Engineering Championship winning AXR mount. Claiming the title with Dane Cameron in 2016, and last year with former F1 Driver Felipe Nasr. As Curran will just run the Enduros' this season.
Then Thars' two brand new Caddy' runners, as JDC Miller Motorsports steps up from LMP2 status last year, and will fill the field with its No's 84-85 tandem, with Rubino', nee Rubens Barrichello being it's Marquee Driver.
Indy Cars Juncos Racing is a brand new entity in Sports Car racing, with its shiny new No. 50 Cadd-OhLacc' featuring three Rolex 24 rookies, comprising of IndyCar Drivers Kyle Kiser and Rene Binder. Along with Argentina's Agustín Canapino, as Will Owen is the only one of the Quartet with previous Daytona 24hrs experience.
Engine: 2.0-litre Inline-4 turbo
Team: Mazda Team Joest
#55) Jonathan Bomarito, Harry Tincknell and Olivier Pla
#77) Tristan Nunez, Oliver Jarvis, Timo Bernhard and Rene Rast
Once again, the little car that could? Led thou way in the Roar Before the Rolex 24's pre Qualie' Show, when Pitlane spaces & Garage selections are decided, with Oliver Jarvis throwing down the Gauntlet with a Mega lap time of 1m33.398s! Unofficially Breaking P.J. Jones 1993 record time aboard the all Conquering AAR Eagle MKIII.
But the biggest news for Mazda Team Joest is the Off-season's Technical Department's retooling, most notably with the addition of spurned IndyCar Newbie' Engineer Leena Gade, who'll Engineer the team's No. 77 entry.
Meanwhile the Driver Roster's almost completely intact, from last year, with the only changes being Olivier Pla replacing Indy Cars Ed Carpenter Racing's Spencer Pigot.
Along with the addition of Timo Bernhard, a past 24 Heurs du Mans winner for Porsche, albeit it seems odd that both entries don't sport four drivers apiece.
As Bernhard and Pla will serve as the Endurance round Drivers, whilst Rast's involvement could be limited due to his Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters commitments.
Nissan Onroak DPi
Engine: 3.8-litre V-6 turbo
Team: CORE Autosport,
#54) John Bennett, Colin Brown, Loic Duvall and Romain Dumas
The Good News is that Thars still a Nissan DPi entry contesting the IMSA Weathertech SportsCar Championship this year. But unfortunately, it's not being run by Extreme Speed Motorsports, (ESM) who along with IMSA lost their longtime financial backer Tequila Patron at the end of last year.
But good for CORE Autosport for upgrading its Prototype programme this season by stepping up to the Top-flight DPi class. As once again the #54 features a pair 'O former Audi LMP1 Men, nee Messer's Duvall & Dumas at its controls for the Rolex 24 complimenting Messer's Benet & Brown.
As the Acura's theoretically should be Cadillac's fiercest rival for victory, while the verdict's still out upon the Mazda's, and the lone Nissan is definitely this year's Dark Horse Contendah'